Has the Use of Cycling Helmets Reduced Fatality Rates? Statistics Say NO
December 16, 2021, Kitchener, Ontario
Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer
Statistics Canada offers a treasure trove of information on cycling. We recently posted about “Nearly 6 male cyclist fatalities were recorded for every female cyclist fatality - Circumstances surrounding cycling fatalities in Canada, 2006 to 2017” highlighting trends from 2006-20017 cycling fatalities.
This article will review whether increased use of helmets has reduced fatality rates of cyclists. It is a short one, so we have posted the entire article here. If you want to read the original, you’ll find it on their website.
If you or a loved one are injured or killed in a cycling accident you should contact one of our personal injury lawyers with a proven track record at Deutschmann Personal Injury Law as soon as you can.
Cyclist Fatality Trends in Canada
Helmet Effect Undetectable in Fatality Trends
An examination of data covering the period 1975 - 2010 from Transport Canada [1,2], a federal government agency, shows that Canada is replicating the experiences of Australia and the US, where no effect of increased helmet use among cyclists can be detected from prevailing fatality trends. As with other studies, our analysis uses pedestrians as a control group since pedestrians are vulnerable road users and are likely to benefit equally with cyclists from general safety campaigns, such as those involving roadside breath-testing of motorists and speed surveillance using radar equipment.
Figure 1 shows fatalities for Canadian cyclists and pedestrians.
Figure 2 above shows the prevailing fatality trends are virtually identical.
It is apparent that mass helmet use is not contributing to the reduction in cyclist fatalities, at least not in any measurable way. The results suggest that traffic authorities should refocus to put their efforts into other proven measures. Programs aimed at motorist behaviour over the past 30 or so years have been effective in reducing fatalities among all road user groups, including pedestrians and cyclists. Pressure on aggressive drivers to change their habits should continue. However, targetting the behaviour of only one of the parties would be short sighted. Cyclist-specific measures are also needed. There are two important factors in cycling fatalities which currently get insufficient attention - cyclist behaviour and night lighting equipment. The vast majority of cycling accidents involve cyclist error or inappropriate practices. That includes collisions with motor vehicles . Educational efforts to improve cyclists' skills should be accorded a high priority. School age children are the obvious target group. Responsible behaviour patterns need to be adopted at an early age.
The corollary is stricter enforcement of bicycle night lighting laws. Over 90% of bicycles involved in night time fatalities have inadequate lighting . Violaters increase their risks of being fatality statistics by a factor of four . Data from Ontario show 20% to 30% of fatalities occur at dusk or during the hours of darkness [7-9]. Transport Canada in 2011 indicated over one third cyclist fatalities occur in the hours of darkness.
1. Road Safety Statistics, Transport Canada
2. Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collisions Statistics, 1975 to 1996, Transport Canada
3. Ontario Coalition for Better Cycling, Ottawa, Ontario, Cyclist and Helmet Use Survey, October 1994
4. Statistics Canada, Factors Associated with Bicycle Helmet Use, 1997, Health Reports, vol. 9 no. 2, Autumn Edition
4a. Bicycle Helmet Use in British Columbia: effects of the helmet use law, April 2000, Foss Robert D., and Beirness Douglas J., University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center
5. Forester, John, Bicycle Transportation, 1994, MIT Press
6. Thom R., Clayton A., and Omar H., Winnipeg's Bicycle Accident Experience, paper presented to the Institute of Transportation Engineers Annual Conference June 1990
7. Rowe, Rowe and Bota, Bicyclist and Environmental Factors Associated with Fatal Bicycle-Related Trauma in Ontario, Canadian Medical Association Journal, January 1, 1995
8. Ontario Road Safety Annual Reports, 1990 to 1996
9. Regional Coroner for Toronto's Report on Cycling Fatalities in Toronto 1986 - 1996, Recommendations for Reducing Cycling Injuries and Deaths, July 1, 1998.
[First compiled January 1999. Revised June 2004]
See US FATALITY TRENDS for a similar analysis of US trends.
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